Debater accused of sexual harassment, misconduct against students he was coaching

The Debate Association (Singapore) said that in 2014, the man sent the student sexually explicit photos of himself.
The Debate Association (Singapore) said that in 2014, the man sent the student sexually explicit photos of himself.PHOTO: FACEBOOK/SINGAPORE DEBATERS
The Debate Association (Singapore) said that in 2014, the man sent the student sexually explicit photos of himself.
The Debate Association (Singapore) said that in 2014, the man sent the student sexually explicit photos of himself.PHOTO: FACEBOOK/SINGAPORE DEBATERS

SINGAPORE - A police report has been made against a Singaporean debater accused of sexual harassment and behaving inappropriately towards the secondary school students he was coaching.

The debater, who was not identified, allegedly sent sexually explicit photos of himself via WhatsApp to a student, said the Debate Association (Singapore) in a statement on Tuesday (Aug 7).

He also allegedly had a "physical sexual encounter" with the student, who is a minor, the statement added.

When contacted, the police confirmed on Wednesday that a report was lodged, and said they are "looking into the matter".

The Debate Association (Singapore) said that in 2014, the man sent the student sexually explicit photos of himself and pressured the student, who was part of a debate programme organised by the association, to reciprocate by sending similar photos.

The man, who was in his late 20s at the time of the incident, was director of the programme from 2012 to 2014 and is said to be a prominent and respected figure in the debating  circle. 

He continued to pressure the student until the end of 2014, when he initiated and had a "physical sexual encounter" with the student, said the association. At that point, the student was no longer part of the programme.

The man had also made sexual comments in a separate WhatsApp group chat with nine other students, said the association. He discussed sexual acts, sexual preferences and the sexual history of participants in the group chat.

He also "led discussions on the objectification of (students) who were minors" by sending photos of the students for the group to comment on their physical characteristics, including genitalia.

The association said it has since banned the man from future events and have informed partner organisations. The individual was notified of the ban on Tuesday.

"The Executive Committee has been in touch with all the students affected, and encouraged them to file their own police reports, as well as provided options for counselling and assistance from social organisations equipped to deal with such cases," it added.

The man had founded the programme and was in charge of interviewing and selecting potential students for the programme, coordinating training sessions, selecting guest trainers and conducting training, said the association.

After allegations against the man were made, the association filed a police report on Sunday and conducted "extensive reviews" of the programme. There have been no other allegations of misconduct against subsequent directors of the debate programme, it added.

The programme has been shut down with immediate effect, said the association.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, Debate Association (Singapore) president Cherylyn Wee said  the association had heard about the allegations but could not act earlier  as none of those involved had come forward.

She said substantive evidence  came to light only recently after it  reviewed the programme and that the association is “moving to create more robust and thorough processes in all our programmes to ensure such cases never happen again”.